The Uniquely Japan Tours
The Uniquely Japan Tours are designed for you to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese people, culture and history through discovering hidden gems of central Japan with long-lasting craft making, sustainable living and historically significant sites showcasing feudal Japan.
The central region was the home of renowned samurai warriors including the Tokugawa Clan who brought 250 years of peace to Japan, ending the warring states period. It’s the perfect place to learn about samurai history and culture that has significantly influenced the Japanese way of life that still continues today.
Through the Uniquely Japan tours, you'll learn:
How a 250-year peace was achieved during the Edo period (1603 - 1868)
How Japanese samurai warriors strategically prepared for battles
The lifestyle of feudal lords and the Tokugawa Shogun – the political and military leader of the Edo government - during the peaceful era
Surrounded by mountains and countryside landscapes, the central region has developed long-lasting traditions of craftsmanship and local lifestyles that sustain natural resources. Among them are sword making and cormorant birds fishing. The region has kept these traditions alive for hundreds of years, as not only the skills but also the mindset associated with these skills have been handed down.
Through the Uniquely Japan Tours, you'll experience:
An once-in-a-lifetime performance of making swords or ukai cormorant birds fishing
The life of local artisans who strive to preserve age-old tradition and to pass their skills to the next generations
How these local traditions have developed and evolved over time
Where exactly is the central region?
The central region, known as Chubu in Japanese, is located in the centre of Japan’s main Honshu island. It is in a convenient location to stop off when you are travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka. It is also a day trip distance from Kyoto and Osaka. It's generally less touristy, less crowded and more rural than these major cities you are planning to visit. Here are the 5 places I would personally love to show you around, especially if you are keen to know more about feudal Japan and the sustainable living of local people.
The 400-year old castle with spectacular views from the top
Garden with tea houses where you can enjoy matcha tea using a locally made tea bowl
Great collections of arts and crafts, as well as armours, swords and items related to theatrical performance Noh
A boat ride on the moat surrounding the castle or a boat cruise on Japan's biggest lake Biwako
A pottery gallery run by a local artist with varieties of ceramic and porcelain wares and a cafe where you can choose your favourite locally made cup to drink a coffee
High-quality brand wagyu Ohmi beef and different types of Japanese sweets
Hikone castle is one of Japan's five national treasure castles that have kept their original shape from the early Edo period.
Located by Lake Biwa, the castle was strategically built for battles, as seen in a number of defensive features and in the exterior of the castle. The reality is that the castle was never used for battles, and so it has become a great showcase of samurai life from both the warring states and peaceful era.
I will walk you through how samurai actually lived and tell you the ways to appreciate the samurai castle and culture.
If you'd like to explore beyond the castle, I'm happy to arrange a tour accordingly by combining the amazing experiences Hikone has to offer.
Photo Credit: Nagoya Honmaru Palace
A state of the art museum with digital content that will take you to the battlefields virtually
The replicas of armour that samurai warriors are said to have worn in the battles
An experience of trying on the exact model of these replicas
Japanese countryside with rice fields that you can explore by bike or walking
Modern art sites and open-air museums with Relatum - The Arch by internationally recognised contemporary artist Lee Ufan
Sekigahara is mostly known for the battle that completely changed the history of Japan. It has indeed brought the warring states period to a close and has led to the longest-lasting peace in Japanese history.
Major samurai warriors living around 1600 came together in Sekigahara. I'll give you all the behind the scene stories and historical context to the samurai period that you want to know to understand Japan on a deeper level.
The Honmaru Palace of the Nagoya Castle, with highly sophisticated interior designs, artistic works and architectural styles that signify the social hierarchy system even within samurai class
The magnificent 55-metre high castle -- one of the biggest among Japanese castles
The Tokugawa Art Museum that exhibits massive art collections of the Tokugawa family and a set of the Tale of Genji Illustrated Scrolls
Local dishes such as Miso Katsu deep-fried pork cutlet and Tenmusu tempura shrimp rice ball
The Honmaru palace was used as a lodging for the Tokugawa Shogun and as the residence and the office of the Owari Tokugawa clan who ruled the domain land around Nagoya.The palace has been reconstructed in a truly authentic manner based on well-preserved blueprints and pictures.
I'll give you the highlights of Nagoya, together with an introduction of popular local dishes and unique breakfast culture.
A night-time ukai cormorant birds fishing performance by master fishermen with 1,300 years of history
Fishermen’s village and Japan's only ukai museum
Historical area with shops of handcrafted paper crafts such as lanterns and umbrella
A 360-degree spectacular view from the top of Mt Kinka where Gifu Castle is situated
The Gifu Great Buddha covered by gold leaf
Nagaragawa Onsen that's famous for teracotta-coloured hot spring and kaiseki multi-course meal with Ayu sweetfish and Hida beef
Benefited from Japan's renowned cleanest river, the Nagara river, Gifu has a long history of ukai, a type of fishing method in which fishermen and trained cormorant birds work together to catch river fish such as Ayu sweetfish.
I'll explain the traditions of ukai as well as the life of master fishermen who are given an honorary position by the Imperial Household Agency. You'll also have a chance to interact with fishermen and other locals and feel the deep bonds between fishermen and cormorant birds.
An ancient sword making demonstration by swordsmiths and an experience of hammering out a blade by yourself
Your original knife making experience with a master craftsman
The traditional swordsmith museum where you can learn the history and making process of Japanese swords
High-quality kitchen knife shops where you can compare different types of kitchen knives
Unagi grilled eel rice bowl that's loved by locals
Seki has become the city of swords and knife making, after one of Japan’s 5 major swordsmith schools Minoden developed around here. Seki still has a large concentration of swordsmiths and artisans who create the exterior of the swords.
I'll take you to the workshop of swordsmiths where you can try out making a small sword or kitchen knife. You'll also have a chance to watch an ancient sword making demonstration up close. Along with the development of swordsmithing, making of kitchen knives was also established in Seki, so it is the perfect place to purchase a high-quality kitchen knife.
Photo Credit: ©️Nobutsugu Sugiyama
Meet your guide Miyuki
Originally from central Japan, I have travelled around different parts of Japan and became a bilingual licensed guide, certified by the Japanese government. After spending some time in Tokyo and in the UK, I currently reside in the southwestern part of Gifu prefecture.
I love learning about Japanese history and getting to know the people from the past and living in the present.
I would love to make my tours as interactive as possible, so I encourage you to join me on a tour with a curious mind and be ready to ask questions.
No prior knowledge is required so all you need to do is to show up at the meeting point on time and enjoy your experience to the fullest!
ron and Jan from
"Miyuki is such an open, optimistic and friendly person! She knows exactly what she is doing as a guide and what she is talking about."
Miyuki is so enthusiastic when it comes to Japanese culture. That’s just awesome. You will learn so much more than visiting everything on your own. Arimatsu was one of the highlights of our journey. We had lots of interaction with locals, which wasn't possible without joining this tour.
"Miyuki’s enthusiasm is infectious. Her stories are deep and entertaining. You can’t help being drawn in by them. "
The highlight of the tours has to be interactions with locals. I’ve got to see real people. They seemed to come alive when they got to talk about something they are passionate about. Miyuki's ability to adapt, improvise and overcome is epic. Due to the situation beyond her control, she created a whole new itinerary on a short notice within a couple of days and the new itinerary was amazing!
Michael from Atlanta
"I wanted to do a tour, and why not pick somebody that I knew would be both fun and knowledgeable!"
I really enjoyed getting away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds in the cities with my side trip to Hikone. It was nice and quiet compared to all the other locations and I was able to soak in the history and the beauty of the area. I am thankful for Miyuki's suggestion of Hikone as I was unaware of the location before, and it was one of the highlights of my trip.
Here's what you'll experience through this tour!
Private and Custom Tour
I'll find out your interests and needs before your trip and arrange your tour. I'll be your private guide and hopefully your best local friend.
I'll make our communication as interactive as possible and help you arouse your curiosity.
Connect with local people
I'll tell you everything you want to know about Japan and help you communicate with other locals.
Discover the unknown
I’ll fill you in on the details that you wouldn't notice by simply looking at on your own so that you can appreciate the sites on a deeper level.
See the big picture of Japan
I'll guide you through what's showcasing the Japanese way of life by explaining historical context and local traditions.
Gain Japan Travel Tips
I'll provide my best travel tips and practical advice on places you will visit for later in your trip.
Q: Can we visit two different locations on the same day?
There are lots to see and do in each location, so we could easily spend 5-6 hours, which is the average length of my tours. My best recommendation is to stay in one location for a day to fully embrace what each city has to offer. If you'd like for a longer tour, it may be possible to arrange a tour combining two locations depending on where you'd like to visit. Please send me a note first and I'm happy to discuss what options I can offer.
Ed and Mia from
"I loved every single minute of the tour!"
Miyuki is a great guide. She knows everything there is to know about Hikone castle and its history. I loved how passionate she is about everything and enjoyed learning more about the castle than I would have on my own. Again, I loved every minute of the tour!
"Hikone wasn't in the typical "itineraries" but was a lovely surprise. "
We appreciated Miyuki's approach - getting us to think about the information presented versus just having info fed to us. The tour was a deep dive into the feudal/shogun system that we had little knowledge about; we visited lots of temples and shrines and food experiences so this was very different. Felt it rounded out our visit.
Haggart Family from north carolina
Nick, Morgan, Kelly and Zack from new york state
"Miyuki was awesome, so kind and very informative. "
Hikone was really pretty. One of the major highlights was the views and the landscapes you see from the top of the caste. We took the culture we didn’t know anything about and learned a lot. We also liked the teahouse and its experience with an artisan. It was a lot of fun.